Rubenstein School faculty, staff, and students study forest ecosystems and various impacts on their health. Studies include relationships of acid rain and nutrient depletion to decline in tree species' health and response to environmental stressors, ways to improve restoration of tree species and their habitats to northeastern forests, use of remote sensing for early detection of invasive insect and disease outbreaks, host tree genetics in plant-insect pest interactions, and potential biocontrol agents for invasive forest insects, among other topics. Researchers also study climate change impacts on forest ecosystems, carbon storage, and decomposition and how ecologically-based silvicultural systems, structure and function of old-growth and riparian forests, natural disturbance ecology, and restoration ecology impact forest biodiversity.

Faculty Research Programs

Carol Adair

Researcher inserts pipe into forest floor

Global climate change, ecosystem ecology, biogeochemistry

Carol's research focuses on how ecosystems respond to natural and human changes, and how this feedback creates further influence. Her current research includes modeling decomposition and its drivers at large scales, using modeling to predict the response of terrestrial ecosystems in the Lake Champlain Basin to climate change, determining if climate stress will impact decomposition and how this will effect carbon storage and loss, the impacts of climate change and soil freezing on carbon, water, and nutrients in forest watersheds, evaluating and implementing on-farm climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies, and stormwater retention strategies for urban areas.

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Anthony (Tony) D'Amato

Hardwood forest

Silviculture, applied forest ecology

Tony directs a program of research which focuses on incorporating patterns of forest stand development and productivity into integrative silvicultural systems and approaches designed to meet a diversity of objectives. These objectives include climate change adaptation and mitigation, maintenance of native biodiversity and complexity, and sustainable commodity production.

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Luben Dimov

Mixed forest in the fall

Forest ecology, silviculture, sustainable forest management

Luben's research interests include forest demography, diversity-productivity relationships, forest response to disturbances and silvicultural treatments, forest ecosystem restoration and restoration of endangered tree species like American chestnut, and forest-based solutions for climate change mitigation, including agroforestry practices. Ultimately, his efforts are aimed toward using our knowledge from forest ecology to adapt our silvicultural approaches in ways that improve forest resilience.

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William (Bill) Keeton

Students carry research equipment acrooss log landing

Forest ecology and dynamics; climate, forest carbon, and energy; sustainable forestry

Bill's research broadly focuses on understanding the structure and function of forest ecosystems and how these ecosystems are impacted by natural and human-caused change. He uses this knowledge to inform sustainable management practices and conservation approaches both in the U.S. and internationally. His specific research interests include forest carbon management, climate change impacts on forest ecosystems, ecologically-based silvicultural systems, structure and function of old-growth and riparian forests, natural disturbance ecology, restoration ecology, forest biodiversity, and sustainable forest management policy and practice.

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Caitlin Littlefield

Dead trees in brush with mountain background

Forest ecology, landscape ecology, climate change adaptation, conservation, environmental education

Caitlin is a landscape ecologist, and her research broadly focuses on the impacts of climate change on forest landscapes and climate change adaptation. Using field data, climate data, and landscape models, she explores questions that address where and when species may move across the landscape to track suitable climatic conditions, how species may recover from disturbances like wildfire (or not), and what trade-offs and win-wins exist when managing for carbon and habitat diversity, among other questions. In each case, she seeks to inform strategies for promoting adaptive capacity of our forest systems in the face of global change.

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Jennifer Pontius

Map of Catskill Mountains showing hemlock woolly adelgid susceptible areas

Forest health, remote sensing, GIS modeling

Jen uses remote sensing, mapping, and modeling to scale information about forest health and function from the plot to the landscape scale. These techniques allow researchers and land managers to identify and track impacts of new and existing forest stress agents. Specifically, her work includes detection and mapping of forest decline as a result of invasive species, climate change, and acid deposition. Current projects include an integrated forest ecosystem assessment to support sustainable management decisions in a changing climate; early detection and mapping of emerald ash borer; remote sensing to assess hemlock decline; a long term assessment of changing forest demographics, productivity, and biomass accumulation; and quantification of historical trends in Vermont's seasonal vegetation in response to climate change. Jen is the Principal Investigator of the Forest Ecosystem Monitoring Cooperative, which integrates ecosystem monitoring efforts across organizational and disciplinary boundaries.

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Paul Schaberg

Researcher in forest with clipboard

Tree physiology, air pollution ecology, climate change, tree species restoration

Paul focuses his research on how anthropogenic influences such as climate change, acid deposition, and cutting practices affect forest health and tree productivity. He considers how these factors impact tree physiology, including cold tolerance, nutrient and carbohydrate interactions, and leaf pigmentation. Some of his current projects include a study of red spruce winter injury and other aspects of conifer cold tolerance, a project on the decline of sugar maples, research on the impacts of calcium depletion on tree health, understanding the biological reasons for red leaf color in the fall, and work on cold tolerance as related to American chestnut restoration.

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